Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Growing Apples in Southern California

Apples are in the rose family (Roseaceae) they are rightly classified as a deciduous fruit tree losing their foliage each winter. Apples need winter cold to set fruit properly. This could be a problem in our mild SoCal gardens so providing winter chill is a concern. Selecting a variety that has a low chill requirement (400 hours or less) is crucial to obtaining a quality apple crop here. Some apples require a pollinator (another apple tree) in order to yield high amounts of fruit. Apples are somewhat slow growing & respond well to pruning & shaping. They are easily trained to grow in small spaces. Apples come from inland areas of Europe & Central Asia. Most, if not all, quality apples are grafted to increase tolerance to diseases & widen the range of growing conditions & increase their resistance to pest & diseases. Apples do poorly in containers. Prune when the foliage has fallen off the tree. Many Apples (if not all orchard quality trees) are grafted. Varieties that produce choice fruit are grafted onto rootstocks that are resistant to disease.

What Apples Like

Exposure: Apples prefer to grow in full sun for at least 4 hours a day. They can tolerate windy conditions. However, they do not respond well to being planted in overly hot situations & they dislike coastal gardens. The colder the winters the better for inducing a quality crop in Southern California.

Soil: Apples grow best in loamy soils. Amending soil with compost mulch once or twice a year in a layer 2 to 8 inches thick works best. These trees do poorly in heavy poorly drained saline soils.

Irrigation: Apples require infrequent deep irrigation (about once a week to once every two weeks) only during active growth. In the winter (October through February) irrigate once a month only if rains fail.

Feeding Apple trees once a season (or once every three months) provides evenly spaced feedings that will sustain growth. Fertilize with organic granular fertilizers. We recommend Dr. Earth Organic Fruit Tree Fertilizer. Apple trees respond well to compost mulches, the more compost you add the less fertilizer you will need.

Pruning: Apples must be trained so that they conform to an architecture that promotes health & vigor. We want a tree with an open structure with a dense canopy of foliage but an uncluttered crown of branches. Remove all dead & crossing branches whenever noticed. Protect the graft union & remove any suckers that sprout below it. It’s best to prune apple trees when the foliage is absent during the winter. Also it is advised to keep apple trees shorter than 15 feet to make harvesting easier. To do this top the tree at 3 to 5 feet up from the ground then select 3 to 7 “main” branches to become the spreading framework of the tree. Remove any branches that grow at an angle back into the crown of the tree. Remember to keep the tree balance so that the branches have adequate space & access to light. Young trees benefit from staking.

Harvesting: Harvest fruit when they have achieved their “full color”. Apples have some ability to further ripen once picked off the tree, however they are best picked ripe. Apple trees may produce poorly if the flowers are damaged while in bloom. The fruit should be easily removed from the stem when ripe. Thinning the fruit by 30% can increase the size of the remaining fruit.


Beverly Hills- nice flavor & color
Anna- very low chill needs
Golden Dorset- great flavor
Gala- popular variety
Anders- high quality fruit
Gordon- heavy producer
Pettingil- the best low chill red colored apple
Ein Shimer- similar to Anna

Monday, February 13, 2012

Coffe Grounds for the Garden

Coffee in its various forms is one of man's favorite drinks. The seeds are ground up & used to make beverages. Instead of throwing coffee grounds away they will work perfectly as a soil amendment. As coffee grounds decompose they release Nitrogen into the soil, this is an important nutrient that is often deficient in our native Southern Californian soils. Coffee grounds also are acidic & lower the pH of our usually alkaline soils. Tropical plants, ferns, & leafy vegetables respond well to the increased acidity provided. Coffee grounds are a good choice to amend hard clay soils as the light & loose organic material will "fluff up" the soil & aid in drainage. Coffee grounds can also "bulk up" loose sandy or rocky soils. Coffee grounds can be added directly to the soil or be thrown into the compost pile. Coffee grounds decompose nicely & add bulk to coarse "mulch like" compost. For vegetable gardens we recommend adding a regular application of coffee grounds mixed with equal parts compost & /or worm castings to the soil. No need to till the soil, the worms & insects will do it for you. This mix really helps keep the soil fertile & easy to work. You can recycle your own coffee grounds or go to your local Coffeehouse & ask them if they can save a bag of grounds for you at the end of the day.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Herbs for the Cooks Garden: French Sorrel

French Sorrel Rumex scutatus is a herb related to rhubarb. It is originally from Europe & has been cultivated in North Africa & the Middle East. The plant is rather nondescript with simple green leafs & cream colored flower spikes that are not very showy. The plants grow into clumps of foliage up to 2 feet high & wide. French Sorrel is a well behaved plant that does not get weedy, it slowly forms clusters. French Sorrel can tolerate poor, drought, & full sun. French Sorrel is adaptable & will grow in a wide variety of climates from the desert, mountains, or coastal areas. It will grow in Sunset climate zones 3 through 24. The flavor of sorrel is bright & lemony, mildly acidic, & not overpowering in food. French Sorrel is best used fresh, this retains the herbs beneficial nutrients & its flavor. French Sorrel is frequently used in soups, salads, & in flavoring & tempering rich fatty meats. French Sorrel makes a wonderful pesto & French Sorrels lemony flavor goes perfect with fish & seafood.

Here is great recipe using French Sorrel as the main ingredient (source Two Small Farms Blog):

Sorrel Pesto: great as an interesting pasta coating or a thick sauce for fish.

2 cups coarsely chopped fresh sorrel, ribs removed
1/3 cup packed fresh parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup olive oil

In a food processor or blender puree the sorrel, the parsley, the garlic, the Parmesan, the pine nuts and the oil, transfer the pesto to a jar with a tight fitting lid and chill it, covered. The pesto keeps, covered and chilled, for 2 weeks. Makes about 1 cup.

To use the pesto: For every pound of dried pasta cooking in a kettle of boiling water, stir together in a heated serving bowl 3/4 cup of the pesto and 2/3 cup of the hot cooking water. When the pasta is al dente, drain it in a colander, add it to the pesto mixture, and toss the mixture until the pasta is coated well. Vermicelli works very well with this recipe.

Friday, December 30, 2011

Tree Aloes

This South African aloe (Aloe dichotoma) is known as the Quiver Tree is one of the most iconic plants of the Namibian deserts. Aloe dichotoma forms a stout thick trunk that is topped with many branches forming a "broccoli" like growth pattern. The succulent foliage is grey colored & tough. Aloe dichotoma has yellow winter flowers that decorate the plant & attract hummingbirds. This slow growing plant makes a perfect potted specimen & its distinctive form makes it a fine site when mature. This Aloe needs full sun & is very drought tolerant. Aloe dichotoma demands less water than most other tree Aloes. Keep these succulent plants relatively dry & water only once or twice a month during warm weather (spring through autumn). In the winter water at a minimum or not at all, especially if there has been adequate rainfall. This Aloe needs to be planted in a well drained soil mix. The Quiver Tree is relatively frost tender & is hardy only to 28 degrees. Aloe dichotoma does well in mild winter areas of Southern California (Sunset Climate Zones 13, 19 through 24).

Aloe bainesii is potentially one of the largest of the Tree Aloes. It can grow to a height of 30 feet high & wide. In gardens it grows into a breathtaking specimen with a massive trunk & branch system topped with gracefully re-curving foliage. This plant can be kept smaller by confining it to a container. In the ground plants grow quickly when young but slow as they age. Aloe bainesii is a native to South Africa growing in arid subtropical regions. In Southern California Aloe bainesii grows best in mild winter areas (Sunset climate zones 13, 19 through 24)& thrives in salty coastal gardens. Like most other Aloes this plant blooms in the winter. The yellow flowers are held in 2 foot spikes above the foliage. These flowers attract hummingbirds & provide much needed winter color. This Aloe tolerates full sun, extreme heat, & poor soil. It is also drought tolerant & fire resistant. Water Aloe bainesii deeply once to twice a month during warm weather (spring through fall) during the winter water only if the rains fail to arrive & then only water enough to keep from the plant from shriveling.

Aloe pillansii is now considered a natural occurring variety of Aloe dichotoma. Aloe pillansii differs from Aloe dichotoma in having a larger heavier trunk, larger leafs, & fewer branches. All in all Aloe pillansii forms a heavier more open tree than Aloe dichotoma. Aloe pillansii is the most succulent & drought resistant of the the tree Aloes. It boasts an exceptionally heavy trunk with decorative waxy shredding bark, & thick succulent foliage. Specimens stand out against the sky & are a perfect addition to any succulent collection. This Aloe comes from arid regions of Namibia & South Africa. It demands full sun & a well drained soil mix. This tree aloe is relatively slow growing & requires little supplemental water. Water the plants once or twice a month during warm weather spring through autumn. During the cool of the winter water plants only once a month or not at all if there is adequate rainfall. Like Aloe dichotoma Aloe pillansii grows best in mild winter areas of Southern California (Sunset Climate zones 13, 19 through 24). In all other respects it grows & demands similar conditions as Aloe dichotoma.

Aloe plicatilis is an unique Aloe that forms a small tree or shrub that can reach 6 to 12 feet high & wide. The foliage of Aloe plicatilis is its most outstanding feature. The succulent leafs are held in a fan like arrangement atop the branches. The heavy trunks & branches are silvery grey & are themselves very architectural. In the winter 1 to 2 foot spikes of orange red flowers provide bright color to attract the hummingbirds. Aloe plicatilis is perfect for containers & can live as a small specimen in a pot for decades. This Aloe is a good choice for slopes, coastal, & fire resistant landscaping. A native to South Africa Aloe plicatilis grows well in mild winter areas of coastal Southern California. It is hardy to light frost (28 degrees F) & tolerates winter moisture well. This Aloe grows best in Sunset Climate Zones 14 through 24. water this plant once to three times a month during warm weather spring through autumn. In the winter water plants once a month. If there is adequate rainfall supplemental irrigation may not be needed.

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Dwarf Bock Choy & Pack Choy

Bock Choy & Pack Choy (aka Asian micro greens) are two closely related varieties of Chinese mustard. Mustards are also related to Cabbages, Kales Broccoli, & Cauliflower. Normally these Asian micro greens stay compact growing up to 2 feet high & wide. There however exist even smaller varieties breed specifically for being fried whole in a wok. They are perfect for gourmet cooks. These varieties are also great in containers or where space is at a premium. You can also serve & eat the individual leaves in salads as part of a micro green mix. These greens are great for making soups & can be chopped up or added whole. Bock Choy & Pack Choy need full sun all day to achieve their best form. Here in southern California these micro greens are cool season growers. They are best planted from October through May & can even tolerate frost & lite snow without a problem. These plants are relatively fast growing & several crops of Asian micro greens can be harvested all throughout the cool season. Asian micro greens bolt (flower) in heat when this happens the plant will go to seed & die, in the process the edible quality of the plant declines. In general, always harvest before the plant starts to bolt. These are easy plants to grow by seed & transplants. Fertilize with an organic fertilizer once every three months, plant in soil enriched with compost. Water regularly but prevent soil from becoming excessively wet & poorly drained. Flowerdale Nursery carries seeds & live transplants of Asian micro greens October through March.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Cedar Trees

These evergreen plants are in the Cedrus Genus of conifers that are closely related to the Firs (Aibes). Cedars are native to a wide variety of places & habitats throughout the Northern Hemisphere. The fragrant insect repellent wood makes some of these trees important for timber. Cedars have needle like foliage & dry unarmed cones. Most Cedars grow well here in Southern California & adapt nicely to all areas except the hottest Sonoran Desert areas (Sunset climate zone 13). Cedars in general are tolerant of drought, heat, cold, & poor soil. Cedar trees are picturesque, most are slow growing. Cedars are great for creating a woodsy forest atmosphere & they also make excellent subjects for containers & Bonsai.

Cedars for Southern California

Deodar Cedar Cedrus deodara this is the national tree of Pakistan. Native to mountains (most notably the Himalaya)of Asia, from Afghanistan in the west to Eastern India & Nepal in the East. Deodar Cedars are hardy to cold here in Southern California up to about 8000 feet in elevation. Established trees require little water, getting by on deep irrigation's twice a month spring through summer. Grow in full sun. The tree has graceful pendulous branches & sliver foliage. Deodar Cedars grow quickly at first then they slow down attaining heights up to 50 feet high & wide. The wood is of high quality & is hard. The unarmed papery cones open & shed the seeds when dry, the attractive foliage is needle like. There are several dwarf, columnar, creeping, & weeping cultivars of Deodar Cedar. All Cedars are of cultural importance to the native peoples that have lived with them.

Cedar of Lebanon Cedrus libani is a species of Cedar that is the national tree of Lebanon but it is also native to a wide area of the Mid East. It grows on the Island of Cyprus, North Africa, Israel, Jordan, Syria, Turkey, & Iran. The Cedar of Lebanon is similar in appearance to the Atlas Cedar except the foliage is not as silvery blue & the branches are slightly weeping. Cedrus libani grow into beautiful majestic specimens 30 to 50 feet high & wide. The trees produce a lovely broad crown with many ascending beaches covered in foliage that can range in color from lime green to silver gray. This Cedar is hardy to cold here in Southern California up to about 8000 feet in elevation. Established trees require little water, getting by on deep irrigation's twice a month spring through summer. Grow in full sun. Like other Cedars The wood is of high quality & is hard. The unarmed papery cones open & shed the seeds when dry. This Cedar will make an excellent specimen wherever a substantial evergreen tree is needed with texture & interest.

Blue Atlas Cedar Cedrus atlantica are beautiful conifers native to the Atlas Mountains of Morocco. These trees boast showy foliage that consists of blue gray or sliver needles. The branches of mature trees are decorated with papery cones which hose the seeds. The tree has an open growth habit with wide spreading branches. It is somewhat slow growing up to 50 feet high & wide. This Cedar is hardy to cold here in Southern California up to about 8000 feet in elevation. Established trees require little water, getting by on deep irrigation's twice a month spring through summer. Grow in full sun. Like other Cedars The wood is of high quality & is hard. Blue Atlas Cedars make great specimens as they become the focal point of any landscape. the trees are perfect for large spaces & they cast a nice patter of shadow of the ground. This is a great tree in both desert & coastal areas of California. Striking dwarf, weeping, and creeping forms exist.

Winter Flowering Annuals

What are annuals?

Annuals are plants that live their entire life in one growing season / year. Perennials live & bloom year after year & Biennials grow one year & bloom the next. Often times these plants will die after flowering & setting seed. Annuals are strongly seasonal either being cool or warm season growers. Sometimes annuals can live over to become short lived perennials but they usually die after two years.

Landscaping With Annuals

Using annuals in the landscape is like using color in a painting. Annuals need rich soil & more water & fertilizer than most landscape plants. Arrange plants by size &
by color contrasts & harmonies.

Winter Annuals

Antirrhinum majus

Snapdragons are popular annuals once native to Eurasia. They are known for their flower spikes that come in all colors except blue. Snapdragons are hardy to cold & are best plated in the fall here in the desert. These plants may live over for two to three years. Dwarf varieties exist. Deadhead frequently.

Pansies & Violets
Viola hybrids

Pansies or Violas are a staple for cool season flower color. These annuals like cool sunny weather & do best October through May. The flowers come in all colors & in various sizes. Pansies are small plants that stay short & are perfect for containers.

Sweet Alyssum
Lobularia maritima

Sweet Alyssum is native to the Mediterranean area & is a short lived perennial or annual that grows very well in the Mojave Desert. Flowers 9that attract good bugs) come in white, pink, or purple & they smell strongly of honey. The plants stay low & flower over a long period of time. This plant reseeds easily.

Iceland Poppy
Papaver nudicaule

These dainty poppies from the island of Iceland are great cold hardy annuals. The flowers are large & resemble crepe paper. The plants live & bloom during the cool winter (November through March). Each flower lasts one day. Iceland Poppies look best when massed.

Ornamental Kale & Cabbage
Brassica oleracea cultivars

Closely related to the edible kale & common cabbage these cultivars are grown for their fancy foliage (they are still edible). These plants come in white, pinks, purples, & bicolor. Hardy to frost & cold will die in heat.

Calendula officinalis

Calendula is also known as Pot Marigold or Winter Marigold. This herb is grown for its oils which are therapeutic to the skin. The showy orange, yellow, or brown edible flowers bloom all cool season. The flowers attract beneficial insects.

Matthiola incana

This elegant annual has several forms some with grey foliage others green. There are giant & dwarf varieties & they come in all colors except orange & blue. The flower spikes are very fragrant & the plants are hardy to cold.

English Daisy
Bellis perennis

This plant is commonly encountered as a weed in lawns & moist garden beds. Usually presenting itself as an small insipid white daisy. Breeding has brought color to the family in red & pink. This plant can be perennial.

English Primrose
Primula vulgaris

Primroses are fantastic winter annuals. Their flowers come in all colors & in some amazing combinations. These plants prefer part shade in hot sunny climates. The flowering period ranges from October through April.

Sweet William
Dianthus barbatus

Dianthus is closely related to Carnations & their fragrance will attest to that. Dianthus bloom over a long season sometimes they bloom on & off year round. They may live up to three years. The flowers must be deadeheaded.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Mangos for Southern California

Mangos the “Apples of the tropics” are a tropical forest trees known as Mangifera indica. Mangoes are native to Southern Asia & India. The Mango is one of the most widely grown fruit trees in tropical areas of the world. Mango boasts exceptionally nutritious, sweet, & flavorful fruit that is good right out of hand or in cooking. There are two types of Mangoes: Philippine Mangoes are pale green or yellow & are kidney shaped, Indian Mangoes are oval & are reddish or green in color. Both varieties have yellow flesh & tough inedible seeds. Philippine Mangoes are better adapted to growing in Southern California than the Indian types. Mangoes form small trees in Southern California growing to about 20 feet high & wide (often smaller), Mango trees are evergreen. Mangoes set fruit only in the warmest frost free locations in Southern California. Mangoes can be grown from seed, however many Mangoes are grafted to improve their performance, or to make them dwarfs. Mangoes can be successfully grown in large containers, provided adequate nutrients & careful watering. Mangoes were introduced to Southern California as far back as the 1880’s.

What Mangoes Like

Exposure: Mangoes demand full sun in order to produce good quality fruit. Mangoes do not tolerate windy exposed conditions well. Mangoes are frost tender & are severely damaged & killed when temperatures reach 25 degrees. Flowers & fruit are damaged below 40 degrees. The best areas in California for growing Mangoes are the relatively frost free inland coastal areas of Southern California & the mild winter climates of the Low (Sonoran) Desert. Sunset zones 13 & 20 through 24 USDA climate zones 9 & 10. Mangoes do not do well in areas that are foggy or cool in the summer; they luxuriate in heat & dislike cold wet conditions. Planting against a south facing wall with reflected heat is a perfect spot to establish a Mango.

Soil: Mangoes grow best in loamy rich well drained soil; however they are tolerant of rocky, clay, & sandy soils. Mangoes have booth deep taproots & shallow surface roots. The deep tap root makes Mangoes fairly drought tolerant, while the shallow feeder roots absorb nutrients quickly. These trees resent being planted in saline, heavy, or poorly drained soils. Adding a layer of organic compost, once or twice a year as a mulch is highly recommended.

Irrigation: Mangoes require infrequent deep irrigation about two to three times a month during warm weather & active growth. During the winter irrigate sparingly (if at all) especially in cold wet weather. Mangoes are sensitive to salts in the water (causes leaf tip burn) to remedy this irrigate deeply so that salts do not build up in the soil; compost mulch also works well to absorb these salts.

Diet: Feeding Mango trees once a season (or once every three months) provides evenly spaced feedings that will sustain growth year round. Fertilize with organic granular fertilizers.

Pruning: Mangoes need little pruning, they are well behaved & are somewhat slow growing in Southern California. Remove all dead & crossing branches whenever noticed. Dwarf & container grown trees benefit from being staked. It is beneficial to keep the branches off the ground & away from fences or buildings. This helps prevent fruit rats from easily gaining access to the trees canopy. Care must be taken to quickly remove any foliage & branches that sprout below the graft union (the place where the fruiting upper portion of the plant is grafted onto the lower rootstock portion).

Harvesting: Spring & summer are the peak season for the Mango fruit harvest. The fruit are ready when they turn color & become slightly soft to the touch. Cut the fruit from the tree instead of pulling it off to avoid damaging the easily bruised fruit.
Pollination: Mangoes are self fertile & are often bear fruit every other season (alternate bearing).

Frost Protection: Mangoes are very frost tender & suffer damage in temperatures below 30 degrees. The duration of any frost is also important to consider. The longer the temperatures are below freezing the greater the damage. There are several ways to protect tropical fruit trees from frost damage:
• Covering your plant with a sheet or tarp-like material will provide protection from temperatures down to 20 degrees. Note, any foliage that touches the frost barrier may be damaged.
• Circulating the air using fans is also helpful for frost protection down to 20 degrees.
• Believe it or not, spraying your plants with water can actually insulate the plants. Liquid water itself will provide heat, & as water freezes into ice it gives off heat.
• Provide some sort of external heat source. Active sources include heaters, while passive sources absorb heat during the day & radiate it out at night. Examples of passive heat include barrels of water, stacks of boulders, & the earth itself.


Haden- This is a commonly encountered Indian type mango that bears large red yellow fruit with a mild sweet flavor with nearly fibreless flesh. Haden is a good choice for inland areas. This variety was developed by Captain Haden of South Florida in 1910. Haden forms a vigorous variety.

Timotayo- Is a new Coastal Southern California variety! Timotayo was developed in Camarillo & is perfectly adapted to Coastal Southern California. The fruit is greenish yellow & has almost no fibers in its flesh. The flavor is high quality, sweet, juicy, & dense. The tree bears fruit when young & stays rather small at maturity.

Carrie- A dwarf Mango! Carrie is a great variety the tree stays small & fruits when young. Carrie is perfect for containers or in small gardens. Even if you had the space you would still want to plant one on account of it great flavor. The relatively unattractive fruit are greenish yellow but the golden flesh is spicy sweet & aromatic.

Thompson- In 1966 Paul Thompson developed a Mango cultivar at his Vista, California orchard. This Philippine type mango is the best variety for areas near the coast with foggy cool summers. The fruit is yellow kidney shaped with rich sweet flesh & a large seed. The tree is also nice & compact.

Valencia Pride- This is by far one of the best Indian type mangoes that were developed in South Florida. The oval fruit are yellow green with crimson shoulders. The honey sweet fibreless flesh is a bright golden color & is very juicy. This variety is very vigorous & productive when mature. This variety is always one of our best sellers.

Manila- This is a Philippine type Mango developed in Veracruz Mexico. It produces many smallish kidney shaped yellow Mangoes. The trees are small rarely reaching 15 feet. This variety is a reliable producer compared to others. Manila Mangoes are usually the only Mangoes that are grown on their own roots (non grafted) here in California. The fact that they do well here on their own roots makes them an attractive choice for root stock for grafting other Mango varieties.

Nam Doc Mai- One of the best Mangoes to be developed in Thailand. Nam Doc Mai forms a nice compact almost dwarf tree. The fruit are slightly S shaped & are green ripening to yellow. The large fruit have exceptionally sweet flesh with a spicy complex aroma. This is a must for the Mango connoisseur.

Glenn- Another South East Asian Mango that was imported to the USA & planted in South Florida. Glenn produces fruit that are of the Indian type oval yellowish orange with a red blush. This variety is nice & compact & does well in large containers. In Southern California it grows best in the foothills.

Gold Nugget- Another great Mango variety developed in South Florida. Gold Nugget is an Indian type mango with beautiful oval fruits that ripen to a bright gold color inside & out. The flesh is very juicy & of high quality. Gold Nugget is also productive & fairly disease resistant. The trees are nice & compact.

Malika- This is another new hybrid variety coming out of India. The tree is small to somewhat dwarf but is very productive (great for containers). The fruit is green ripening to a pale yellow. The soft juicy flesh is yellow & has a very mild almost melon like flavor. The tree is easy & disease resistant. The fruit have a long shelf life.

Elephant (Xoai Tuong)- This is an uncommon & hard to find semi dwarf variety from Southeast Asia. Elephant is named for its production of large to very large fruit. The green fruit are oval to “football” shaped & will ripen to a pale yellow; here in Southern California they will often stay greenish. The flesh is sweet & spicy with lots of juice & meat.

Keit- This Philippine type Mango developed in Mexico is important commercially both there & here in California. Small orchards (in the Sonoran Deserts Coachella & Imperial Valleys) of this variety produce great fruit. The compact plants produce green fruit that ripen to a yellow orange. The yellow orange flesh is tangy sweet, & of high quality. Best seller.

Kent- An important Mango variety developed in South Florida produces robust vigorous disease resistant plants. This is an Indian Mango that produces oval fruit that starts out green but then turns yellowish with orange blotches. The flesh is apricot in color & is sweet & flavor full. This is considered the best variety for drying & preserving.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Dwarf Mangos

Mangoes are exquisite tropical fruits that are enjoyed by millions world wide. Here in mild winter areas of Southern California (Sunset Climate Zones 20 through 24 / USDA Zones 9 & 10)we can also enjoy home grown Mangoes. Mangoes demand full sun (all day 6+ hours)& well drained soil that has been amended with compost. Mangoes luxuriate in heat & resent the cold. Mangoes are perfect for small gardens as nearly all mangoes can be kept compact & relatively small. Most California grown Mangoes grow to a maximum of 15 feet high & wide but trees can get larger. There are several varieties of Mangoes that are dwarf that is they bear full sized fruit on small trees (4 to 8 feet high & wide). Dwarf Mangoes are also recommended for container culture. They will grow & produce best in large containers that are 20 inches high & wide or larger. Dwarf Mangoes must also be staked well as their small branches tend to be weighed down by the heavy fruit clusters. Below is a list of dwarf & semi dwarf varieties that stay small here in Southern California:

Carrie- This is one of the best most highly regarded of the dwarf Mangoes. Carrie can produce fruit when still young & the trees are perfect for large containers. Carrie Mangoes grow 6 to 10 feet high & wide (especially if planted in the ground)& the plant can be kept to fruit at just 4 feet tall. The fruit grows to the size of a fist or larger they are oval to roundish in shape. The fruit are relatively ugly for a Mango. The fruit are green turning lime green to yellow (often blotchy here in Southern California) when ripe. The inside of this fruit is another story, the deep gold flesh is smooth fiber less & melting with an honey sweet rich Mango flavor.

Cogshall- This is a excellent Indian type Mango that was developed in Southern Florida. Coshall forms a nice compact handsome plant that needs little pruning. This is another Mango that would be perfect in a large container. In Southern California we expect trees to slowly reach 6 to 12 feet high. The fruit are fist sized to slightly larger & are very attractive. The yellow green mangoes gain a dramatic red blush when ripe. The interior flesh is yellow, very juicy,with a fruity sweet flavor. The fruit has a thin skin & it can bruise easily. This variety has been shown to be resistant to many common diseases. If you are a fan of Floridian Mangoes than this one is for you.

Nam Doc Mai- This Mango from Thailand is a superb variety that is not normally considered a dwarf. Here in Southern California the trees will slowly reach only 15 feet high only after great age. It is easy to keep Nam Doc Mai small by pruning or by growing it in a large container. This is one of the most popular Mangoes out of South East Asia. Nam Doc Mai produces large fruits (up to 3lbs) that are football to slightly elliptical in shape whit a curved end. The fruits green ripening to a yellowish green sometimes with a red orange blush. The flesh is bright apricot & has fiberless highly aromatic flesh with a complex spicy flavor that is somewhat acid. This is a must for any Mango connoisseur.

Mallika - In a relatively short time this new variety from India has become very popular around the world. This Mango forms a nice small somewhat open plant up to 10 feet height (but can be kept smaller). Malika is a hybrid whose parents provide an excellent mix of genes combining vigor & disease resistance with beautiful fruit with great flavor. The large fruit can weigh 8 oz or more & are oval in shape. The skin is thin & it is not waxy or tough like on many other Mango varieties. The skin is green & ripens to bright yellow color. The bright yellow flesh is very juicy, aromatic, & creamy in texture. This is a great Indian Mango!

Keit - This is the only variety of Mango commercially produced & sold for export out of Southern California. Keit forms a small open spreading tree up to 15 feet high & wide (can be kept smaller)& is suitable for large containers. The origin of Keit is South Florida & it has proven to be an adaptable variety. The large fruits can weigh a pound or more & they stay green even when ripe. When ripe the fruit will soften, become fragrant,& will start to carry a yellowish blush. The fiberless flesh is bright yellow& is rich, fragrant, with a spicy flavor. The fruiting season is also long & trees of the Keit variety are fairly productive & reliable than other varieties. Keit is one of our best sellers.

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Dwarf Avocado Trees

Here in Southern California we are blessed with a climate that is great for growing Avocados (Sunset climate zones 17 through 24). The only drawback of Avocados is for the most part they are large trees that will easily reach 25 feet high & wide if left to grow unpruned. Pretty much all full sized Avocado varieties can be kept at a manageable 10 to 15 feet high & wide. However there are several varieties of Avocados that are smaller (dwarf)in size. These Avocados are perfect for large containers. A half whiskey barrel of other container larger than 24 inches high & wide is recommended for growing Avocados. When planted in the ground these dwarf Avocados make a dense leafy shrub or small tree. Dwarf Avocados tend to have a "droopy" almost weeping habit, often times their branches touch the ground. this weeping shape makes these Avocados as good candidates for Espalier. In general, dwarf avocado trees are less vigorous than normal sized trees, however their fruit if full sized & tastes great.

Dwarf Avocado Varieties:

Little Cado (also known as Wurtz)- This is probably the smallest of the Avocados. This variety was developed in Encinitas, Ca in the 1930's. Little Cado has a fruit that is similar to that of a Bacon in size & shape. Interestingly the 4 to 10 oz fruit has a flavor reminiscent of a Hass. Little Cado grows 6 to 13 feet high & wide. The flesh is yellowish green with a creamy smooth texture. The flavor is average to good & ripens April through September. The skin darkens as the fruit ripen. This is the best Avocado for growing in containers.

Holiday - Holiday is one of the best tasting dwarf varieties of Avocados. This variety was developed from a seedling of the Reed Avocado. It has a large fruit weighing 8 to 12oz, the fruit is oval to oblong in shape. The flesh is light & creamy being of fairly high quality for a dwarf Avocado. The flesh darkens as the fruits ripen, this happens September through January. Holiday is great for espalier as it has "weeping" branches that grow out horizontally. Holiday is a good choice for growing in the ground, but can also be grown in large containers.

Gwen - This is the most productive of the dwarf Avocados. Gwen is a dwarf Hass variety that originated in Riverside, CA. The fruit are smallish growing up to 8oz. The fruit look & tastes like a Hass. Gwen will grow up to 15 feet high & wide but can bet kept smaller. The fruit is of good quality & is versatile in its uses. The fruit darken when they ripen, the fruit come into season February to October. Gwen is a great shrubby Avocado that is best suited for being cultivated right in the ground. This variety can also be espaliered.